Journal of
Stellar Peacemaking

©2006 Journal of Stellar Peacemaking
Vol.1 No. 2,  2006

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Transformative Teacher Preparation: Fostering the Development of Teacher Dispositions that Support Peace

Georgia Southern University

This study, conducted at a large regional university in the Southeastern United States of America, investigated the emerging development of culturally responsive, compassionate teacher dispositions among educational psychology students enrolled in a College of Education’s Teacher Education Program. Findings support the need for transformative reform of the pre-service teacher curriculum through implementation and application of Peace Education Standards for Teacher Educators. Outcomes of the study included the development of a self-assessment and teacher educator rubric to assist the measurement of prospective teachers’ dispositions for teaching in contemporary, multicultural secondary schools.

Historically and contemporaneously, at all levels, the goals of education in the United States of America (USA) have not included fostering of worldviews for peace. Nor have teacher education programs sought to prepare teachers and/or administrators to promote the philosophies and processes of peace in their classrooms and schools. There have been few meaningful efforts in USA to encourage the personal growth of students for contributing to a democratic society as selfless, compassionate and altruistic citizens. Consequently, efforts for peace education, as an approach to teaching and learning that is based in the philosophical goals of peace development and grounded in fundamental processes of human rights, social justice and aspirations for worldwide peace, often incite controversy and misunderstanding among educators.

However, as teacher educators awaken to the severe and obvious need for fully prepared and qualified, thus culturally-responsive, teachers, the development and articulation of peace education standards as guiding principles and processes for democratic schooling are relevant to their collegial discussions. The need for transformative teacher preparation, which fosters dispositions of selfless, culturally responsive and compassionate teachers for accommodating human diversity in multicultural schools, has never been greater.

Transformative teacher preparation is based on the premise that before teachers can teach selflessly, responsively and compassionately, they must first proactively commit to providing equal access to quality learning for all students and to the broad goals of social justice and equity for democratic praxis (National Network for Education Renewal, 2006). Indeed, commitment to the philosophy and processes of peace education is a necessary first step to culturally responsive teaching. The corresponding work is not easy.

Implementation of the goals of peace education in USA schooling is especially challenging in an education system governed strictly by federal mandates based on measurable academic standards that expose a gaping disparity of achievement scores between white students and their black and Hispanic peers, the three largest racial/ethnic groups enrolled in USA schools (Standard & Poors, 2006). This onerous achievement gap has resulted in increased regimentation and drill in USA schooling in efforts to raise test scores, i.e., to develop, administer, score, and manage test data as well as teach-the-tests while the testing industry has become an exceedingly prosperous entity. Further, in many classrooms, teachers have become testers, rather than professional educators—at great expense to, and through sad neglect of, the nurturance of the critically important sociocultural and interpersonal skills of cooperation with unity that students need in order to live together as co-existent, peaceful citizens of the world. Standardized test scores tell only a portion of the deeply divided story of USA education.

After completing a recent investigation of the dynamics of race and high school achievement in The Diversity Project, at Berkeley High School in California, researchers concluded that the achievement gap which threatens to destroy public education mirrors a deeply divided nation sustained and perpetuated by insidious underlying privilege and power mechanisms (Noguero & Wing, 2006). Such a discovery calls for teacher educators who are willing to recognize the need to close the achievement gap through analysis and denouncement of the entangled malignancies that sustain it. Teacher educators must begin to teach prospective teachers how social structures and institutions perpetuate structural violence and societal conflicts such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. See Appendix A, Peace Education Standards: Recommended Standards for Teacher Educators (Carter, 2006).

Building on the facilitation of creative and critical thinking processes, teacher educators can prepare culturally-responsive teachers who will be skillful to close achievement, power, and privilege gaps through the implementation of Peace Education Standards. Needed are culturally responsive teachers dispositions that support peace development, the multiple aspects of democratic citizenship, self-acceptance, respect for self and others, and cultural selflessness (Lasley, 1994, p. 3). Fortunately, research shows that cultural selflessness, as the practice of altruism and compassion for all students, i.e., an extra-centered teacher disposition, can be taught (Lasley, 1994). Yet, teacher education programs provide few, or no, opportunities for pre-service teachers to acquire dispositions of cultural selflessness for peace development in education. Hence, pre-service teachers need opportunities to learn appreciation for different others and for demonstrating civic values which support democracy, while they are still enrolled in their teacher education program (Lasley, 1994). Peace education, based on goals of peace development, involves both “a philosophy and a process” (Harris & Morrison, 2003, p. 207) to assist teacher educators who seek to teach peace. Learning cultural-selflessness, trust, caring, empathy, love and nonviolence while developing process skills of problem-solving, listening, dialogging and reciprocity are built on a philosophical foundation (Carter, 2007). Teacher educators who teach for peace employ both peace philosophy and process to structure the formal as well as hidden curricula of the classroom. Responsively, peace educators begin where students are with regard to their understanding of the elements of the peace process (Harris & Morrison, 2003).


Transformative Teacher Preparation

In a call for rethinking the treatment of diversity and multicultural education in the pre-service teacher curriculum, Villegas and Lucas (2002) invited the field of teacher education to move beyond the “fragmented and superficial treatment of diversity that currently prevails” (p. 20) to an articulation of a vision of teaching and learning in a diverse society that could systematically guide the infusion of multicultural issues throughout the entire pre-service curriculum. Table 1 documents a vision of culturally responsive teachers provided by Villegas and Lucas.


Table 1. Characteristics of Culturally Responsive Teachers

Are socially conscious
Have affirming views of students from diverse backgrounds
See themselves as responsible for and capable of bringing about change for equity in schools
Understand how learners construct knowledge and are capable of promoting it
Design instruction that builds on what their students already know while stretching them beyond the familiar.


Although recommendations for multicultural education and culturally responsive instruction in the schools have been made, the typical response to the need for certifying culturally responsive teachers who will promote social justice, equity and democratic praxis has been to add a multicultural education course to teacher-certification programs. However, unless the concepts taught in a single multicultural course are reinforced and expanded (infused) throughout all courses in the teacher education curriculum, pre-service teachers are not likely to be affected--especially if they bring conflicting views of their own to the program (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). An ‘infusion approach’ to the treatment of diversity and multicultural education in teacher education programs calls for the unique immersion of diversity issues into every course in the teacher education program.

The role that teacher educators should play in advancing culturally responsive teacher dispositions has been unclear. Yet, as the conversations and debates have continued, many teacher educator faculty have begun to quietly move forward--to change what they teach about the values needed to maintain a democracy; to revise their syllabi to demonstrate the necessary altruistic compassion required for promoting social justice; and to openly articulate their support and personal hopes for global peace. Teacher educators are transforming their own courses to infuse the treatment of diversity and culturally-responsive teacher dispositions into their regular curriculum. They are also requiring their students to examine the effects of power hegemonies in public school classrooms and to critically analyze “the intersections of race, class, gender, culture, power politics, social transformation and schooling” (Adams, Shea, Liston & Deever, 2006, p. 4). These faculty are asking pre-service teachers to demonstrate their awareness of social injustices evidenced in the schools and to address deep-seated intolerances and social exclusion that interfere with or obstruct societal peace (Tisdell, 1995).Other educators are emphasizing the need for culturally-responsive teachers in a call for the ‘re-culturing’ of classrooms where teachers are aware of their own culturally-constructed selves, i.e. their cultural histories, biases, and prejudices (Windschitl, 2002). Unfortunately, pre-service teachers are often unaware of how different the lives of their students will be from their own (Knapp, 2005). Irvine (2003) iterates the importance of the teacher’s awareness of differences in the classroom in the following reminder:

It does matter who the teacher is.  Indeed, we teach who we are.  Teachers bring to their work values, opinions, and beliefs; their prior socialization and present experiences; and their race, gender, ethnicity, and social class…teachers are influenced by their past and present cultural encounters…teachers have preferences for the type of student whom they want to teach. They do not treat all students the same or have similar expectations for their success and achievement (Irvine, 2003, p. 46).


Cultural Mismatch

Teacher-student differences are vast in USA.i The race, socioeconomic class, and/or home cultures of teachers often do not match those of their students. Current gender and racial demographic data in USA show that 83.7% teachers are white-non-Hispanic and 75% of these teachers are females (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). This is relevant when considering that the percentage of white students in public schools has been continually decreasing (decreasing from 78% in 1972 to 57% in 2004) while minority enrollments have been continually increasing in all U.S. regions since 1972. In 2004, 43% of public school students were considered to be of a racial or ethnic minority group.  (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Data trends indicate that the decrease in the proportion of white students in public schools is largely due to the increase in the proportion of students who are Hispanic. By 2002, the Hispanic enrollment in USA surpassed black enrollment. The percentage of children speaking a language other than English at home increased from 8% in 1979 to 17% in 1999--the last year for which this data is available (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).

Teacher/student cultures differ also in socioeconomic class, which is another important aspect of student diversity. In 2001, the poverty rate of school-aged children was approximately 17% (not statistically different from the 1976 percentage of school-aged children in poverty);  however, the percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch was much higher—41%--in 2001 (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). And “far more black and Hispanic children were likely to be impoverished than white children.” (p. 19).

The cultural mis-match between teachers in USA and the multiple variables of diversity as described above in terms of race, socioeconomic class and language spoken in the home underscore the urgent necessity for educators who must not only become aware of the sources and effects of diversity in their classrooms; they must also demonstrate the culturally responsive teacher dispositions for teaching every student (Knapp, 2005). This begins with the awareness of the ongoing development of one’s own personal racial and cultural identities (Cross, 1971; Helms, 1990). Human development research shows that teachers must comprehend their own complexities as a foundation of learning about and teaching their students. To teach responsively, educators need awareness of how privilege and power are manifested (McIntosh, 1990) in the classroom and elsewhere.



This is not easy. Confronting the inequities and social injustices of racism, classism and social phobias while disentangling the power and privilege inequities and managing inter-student conflicts that manifest within the teacher education classroom are all tedious tasks; that can pose a risk to a teacher educator. As Bolgatz, a new teacher education graduate stated, “…talking about race and racism in classrooms remains a challenge” (Bolgatz, 2005, p. 28). She observed that while she was enrolled in her teacher preparation program, her professors were often resistant to ‘fit’ multicultural education into their packed course curricula. She speculated that some of her teacher education professors were afraid to examine race directly because they appeared to believe that in doing so, they would “create or reinforce racism” (Bolgatz, 2005, p. 28). Some of her professors even wondered if they should address ‘sensitive’ topics such as slavery because to allow discussion of such topics was likely to open dangerous emotional responses. Clearly, teacher educators need thorough preparation for taking such important steps toward transformative teacher preparation through the discussion of racism in the schools.  Noting that white teachers can feel incompetent when talking about race and that they often lack necessary understanding (about racial issues), Bolgatz (2005) lamented their rejection of information about the causes of social inequities. As a result of cultural mismatch and a lack of understanding, white teachers may even fail to discuss race when they are teaching books that obviously deal with racial issues (Ladson-Billings, 2003). Despite all of the resistance to talking about race and racism in teacher education classrooms, progressive faculty of all races are facilitating discussions with their pre-service teacher-students. Bolgatz (2005) cited studies that demonstrate the discomforting, yet rewarding, risks of talking about race in racially-mixed student classrooms (Alberti, 1995; Berlak, 2001; Davis, 1992; Ellsworth, 1989; Fox, 2001; Johnson, 1994). She noted that there are a limited number of studies describing how high school teachers teach about race and racism in the classroom citing one autobiographical study that describes how uncomfortable a white teacher was when talking with her students about race in her racially-mixed classroom (Dilg, 1999).


The Study

Theoretical Frame

Classical and contemporary theories of development in educational and counseling psychology support a transformative infusion approach for the preparation of culturally responsive, compassionate teachers. An infusion approach to the treatment of diversity and multicultural education assumes the appropriate treatment of diversity and multicultural education throughout the entire pre-service curriculum. An especially illuminating and substantive theoretical framework to the infusion approach to teacher preparation is Nell Nodding’s (1984) ‘care theory’ which implies the effects of interpersonal connections and caring relationships in the classroom. Also supportive of the approach are those theoretical perspectives focused on the identification and acceptance of one’s cultural self; specifically, Bill Cross’s (1971,1978,1991) ‘cultural identity theory’ that opens a new way to view development—in areas of black identity, gender, and sexual orientation. Also, Janet Helms’ (1990) stage model of ‘white racial identity development’ can assist the teacher educator in facilitating the self-identity development of pre-service teachers.


The present study occurred at a large regional university in the Southeastern United States where the college of education graduates approximately 250 – 300 students per year for teacher certification in multiple programs and degrees. Two teacher educator faculty on staff at the college of education; an educational psychologist and a counseling psychologist, were the instructors in this study. These faculty synthesized the supporting theoretical frames of counseling and educational psychology to investigate the development of culturally responsive, compassionate dispositions of pre-service teachers enrolled in the teacher education program at the university. The student subjects in this study were enrolled in a course titled Educational Psychology for Secondary Education. The term secondary education describes the learning context of adolescent and teenage students.

Purpose of the Study

    The purpose of the study was to transform an introductory course in educational psychology for secondary education to peace education philosophy and process. The two instructors collaborated to design and teach the course for six semesters, meeting weekly during the course to assess student learning. During each class, these participant researchers critically analyzed ongoing dialogic discussions for identification of student perceptions of and responses to diversity issues in the high schools. The instructors also met to revise and coordinate activities and assignments to maximize student opportunities for the development of culturally-responsive teacher dispositions. At the end of each semester, findings were used to inform the planning for the next semester’s course. The goal of the teaching intervention was improved preparation of the participating pre-service teachers. The course instructors wanted their teacher candidates to be efficacious and confident that they will respond selflessly, altruistically, compassionately and responsively to the individual and cultural differences of the student in their future high school classrooms.


All students enrolled in the undergraduate course, Educational Psychology for Secondary Education, during one of six semesters spanning Fall 2002 through Spring 2005 participated in this study. Semester enrollment in the individual class sections never exceeded 37 students (averaging 32). The students were predominantly white and female. The limited number of students of color (non-white students) who took the course were, most frequently, black. Although students were predominantly middle class, all socioeconomic backgrounds (ranging from low to high) were represented across semesters. During the six-semester duration, the two white female teacher educators altered the educational psychology course to embed student diversity, social justice and equity issues within the essential course content.

The Teacher Education Course – Educational Psychology for Secondary Education

Similar to Tatum’s (1992) evolving course titled The Psychology of Racism, the educational psychology course evolved through six semesters as experiences and findings of each semester informed the instructional design and development of the next semester’s learning activities. The evolution of the course resulted from increased instructor awareness of the need for students to explore their personal cultural identities, of their lack of awareness of important social justice issues affecting the schools, and of their resistance to interacting openly and respectfully about diversity issues while they were on campus--in the university classroom.

The course included the full gamut of traditional educational psychology—readings, lecture discussions, writing assignments on traditional educational and adolescent psychology topics, unit tests, an extensive field experience, and ultimately a problem-based learning project (as the final exam) completed in the field. In addition, at least once per week, the pre-service teachers—students in the course-- were asked to participate in dynamic, dialogic discussions (while in the educational psychology classroom) focused on the treatment of diversity, social justice, and equity in USA secondary schools.

During these classroom discussions, students were challenged to increase their awareness and discussion of the subtle, yet powerful effects of classroom power-hierarchies, racism, poverty, classism, homophobia, and genderism as they could identify problems in their assigned classrooms in the field.  At the same time, they were encouraged to develop cross-cultural teaching strategies for interacting selflessly, altruistically, compassionately, and responsively with their adolescent students in the field.  Diversity issues guiding the discussions were focused on three areas of widespread discrimination and intolerance; namely, (1) race and racism; (2) sexual orientation and homophobia; and (3) gender and genderism. Discussions about race, racial constructions, and racism were focused on the effects of racism on teachers and students-- without normalizing the racial constructions of whiteness or any other racial constructions (Banks, 1996; Fine, Weis, Powell & Wong, 1997; Kinchelow & Steinberg, 1998; Sleeter, 1993; McLaren, 1998; Nieto, 2000). Discussions about sexuality were focused on adolescent coming-of-age, sexual orientations, and the effects of homophobia on teachers and students—while normalizing both homosexual and heterosexual orientations (Garrod, Smulyan, Powers, & Kilkenny, 2002; GLSEN, 2004). And discussions about genderism in the schools were focused on personal gender constructions as well as the effects of genderism on teachers and students in the secondary classroom while normalizing the androgynous attitudes and behaviors of adolescents (Garrod, Smulyan, Powers & Kilkenny, 2002; Gilligan, 1979, 1982).


During the initial two semesters of the study, the pre-service teacher students were asked to complete two pre- and post inventories—(1) The Quick Discrimination Index, i.e., The Social Attitude Survey (Ponterotto, Burkhard, Rieger & Grieger, 1995); and (2) The Scale to Assess Worldview, Revised (Ibrahim, 1991).

The Social Attitude Survey (SAS) provides a single total score that represents the student’s level of awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity to racial/ethnic minorities and women’s issues.  Pilot research on the SAS indicates a high internal consistency Coefficient Alpha of .89 (Ponterotto, et al, 1995). Scores can range from 25 (very insensitive and unaware of minority and women’s issues) to 125 (high sensitivity and knowledge of minority and women’s issues).  Scores indicate four awareness levels: Very Insensitive and Unaware scores range from 25 – 50;   Low Sensitivity and Little Awareness scores fall between 51 and 75; Moderate Sensitivity and Awareness scores range from 76 to100; and The High Sensitivity and Knowledge level spans scores of 101 to 125.

The Scale to Assess Worldview, Revised (SAWV) yields four worldviews assuming that an individual has a primary set of values and a secondary set of values. One’s highest score represents one’s primary worldview. One’s primary worldview is assumed to represent the perspective most often used by an individual to solve problems and deal with life issues. The second highest score is representative of one’s secondary worldview, i.e., the perspective toward one’s problem solving behaviors when primary approaches fail (Ibrahim & Kahn, 1987). Possible worldviews identified on the SAWV are Optimistic, Traditional, Here and Now and Pessimistic. The Optimistic worldview indicates that the responder is relationship oriented, embraces harmony with nature, emphasizes the past and views people to be basically good. The Traditional worldview, indicates that the responder is authority oriented, accepts and honors traditional task orientations; and appreciates long range planning with delayed gratification. The Here and Now viewpoint indicates interest in mutual decision-making, spontaneity and present experience. The Pessimistic view assumes the power of nature over humans, respects individualism over collectivism and views human nature as basically bad.

As the study progressed, the educational psychology course evolved (from first semester to sixth semester of the study), and the instructors eliminated the SAS and SAWV with a plan to develop instruments that would more clearly identify the students’ dispositions for teaching in secondary schools. Instead of Likert scale inventories, the instructors began to ask students to write more extensively, to read and to discuss more adolescent case studies, to participate in panel discussions about diversity issues (facilitated in the classroom by the counseling psychologist), to interact with invited guests who shared information and multicultural experiences, and to complete more extensive field assignments designed to elicit reflective dialogue for classroom discussions. In all activities, the students were continually encouraged to consider issues and to participate in discussions about diversity without embarrassment or guilt.

Course Activities

During every semester of the study, field assignments required the pre-service teachers to become participant observers of the treatment of diversity, social justice, and equity in area high schools, then to write reflectively for later sharing of personal perspectives during the weekly campus classroom discussions. Discussion questions were designed to challenge and to confront student attitudes and beliefs, such as, “What does racism (or homophobia, or gender bias) look like in the classroom?” “What does it mean to be “Black?” What does it mean to be “White?” “Who are the privileged in the classroom?” Who are the non-privileged in the classroom?” What is life in high school like for the gay male, the lesbian female? “What caring encounters do you observe in the high schools occurring between students and students, teachers and students?”  What inequalities do you observe? Who listens to whom? Who ignores whom?” What methods are used to neutralize power differentials between students and between students and teachers?  How are conflicts and behavior problems handled in the school? Many of the dialogic discussions were facilitated to include uncomfortable conversations about diversity as described by Sapon-Shevin, Breyer, & Bradbury (2004) in “…’and nobody said anything’: Uncomfortable Conversations about Diversity,” where students were asked to tell their personal stories and to talk about the critical incidents that have shaped their beliefs about others.

Throughout the study, the pre-service teachers--students were asked to carefully examine their personal constructions of self. They wrote to find answers to questions such as, Who am I? Who am I becoming? Who will I be as a teacher in my future classroom? What difference does it make if I care about my students? What will selfless, compassionate, culturally responsive teaching look like in my classroom? They identified contradictions, opposites, and differences inherent within a multicultural society—different opinions, diverse perspectives, and unique viewpoints. In their discussions, simple discussion guidelines were followed; mainly, that all have the right to opinion; that all must respect the viewpoints of others; and that only one person should speak at a time.

When the six-semester study had ended, the assigned readings in the educational psychology course had been expanded to include multiple short books focused on racism, adolescent sexuality, and coming of age developmental crises. Thus, in efforts to more comprehensively inform the pre-service teachers of the real world of contemporary, diverse, multicultural secondary schools, reading assignments were included to include a list of short books focused on the multicultural worlds, problems, and struggles of adolescents. Readings were followed with required presentations for sharing the major ideas of the selected books to the class. In addition, dialogic discussions, student panels, field assignments, readings, and writing assignments were continually revised, added, and deleted to require the pre-service teachers to complete more precise observations and reflections, and the problem-based learning project (final exam) was continually re-designed to require the pre-service teachers to identify, define, and explore possible solutions to problematic diversity issues in their high school classrooms.  

Also, at least one guest speaker per semester (local teacher, counselor, school psychologist, or professor) was invited to bring professional perspectives and expertise to the educational psychology course classroom discussions. In addition, one to two short movie clips were included during each semester-- showing young adolescents (and their teachers) struggling to find their way, e.g., Mean Girls (the story of the bullying behaviors of white adolescent girls in high school); Music from the Heart (the story of a culturally responsive, white female music teacher who changed the lives of students in an inner city school in Harlem, New York; and/or diversity training in other industries, e.g. Jane Elliott’s diversity training videos for corporate America and materials based on her  Blue-Eyes/Brown-Eyes racism study in her third grade Iowa classroom in 1968  (Elliot, 1996). Further, use of university web course tools for posting of supplementary articles, self assessments, web links, educational psychology tests, and reflective writings for the entire class to view and respond to provided constant support and resources during the educational psychology course.

Near the end of each semester, the students were asked to respond to questions concerning selfless, culturally responsive, and compassionate teaching. They were asked “What did I learn about culturally responsive teaching?” “What is my greatest fear about teaching for diversity?” “What are culturally relevant issues affecting adolescents?” “What motivates adolescents to learn in classrooms?” These introspective writings were considered evidence of the students’ emergent dispositions and an indication of their developmental readiness for their next semester’s student teaching assignments. Consequently, student responses were analyzed to identify specific conceptual categories that comprised their efficacy beliefs for selfless, culturally responsive and compassionate teaching.



The Social Attitude Survey data, combined at the end of the first year of the study, yielded the following pre-service teacher attitudes (expressed as approximate percentages): Ten percent of the them scored within ranges indicating total insensitivity and unawareness of racial/ethnic and women’s issues; sixty percent of the students scored within ranges indicating low sensitivity and little awareness of racial/ethnic and women’s issues; and thirty percent of the students scored within ranges indicating moderate sensitivity and awareness of racial/ethnic and women’s issues.  None of the pre-service teachers scored within the high range of awareness of racial/ethnic and women’s issues. At the end of the initial two semesters of the study, (post-) Social Attitude Survey insensitivity scores were not significantly different from the earlier pre-test scores. 

The Scale to Assess Worldview, Revised data, also combined at the end of the first year, showed that the primary worldview of the majority of the pre-service teachers did not differ from the Optimistic worldview, indicating that they tend to solve their problems and deal with life based on the importance of relationships, emphasis on the past, being in harmony with nature, and seeing people as basically good. The secondary worldview most prevalent among the pre-service teachers was a Traditional world view. Forty-one percent indicated a tendency to use this traditional world view as a secondary approach to problem solving when their primary view was not effective. A traditional worldview implies a tendency to adhere to lines of authority, traditional gender roles, long-range planning and task orientation and to view people to be basically bad.

Comparative and recursive analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) of the pre-service teachers responses to the end of course question, “What is your greatest fear about teaching for diversity?” indicated that their efficacy levels for selfless, culturally responsive and compassionate teaching clustered in the following categorical fears of teaching diverse students: (1) Fear of Stereotyping: Students wrote that they feared that they will judge, stereotype or label minority students. Specifically, many of the pre-service teachers wrote that they feared they will not be able to identify with those students who are different to their race and culture.  Occasionally, students wrote about the fear of offending a student unknowingly when they might have no idea that they were saying the wrong thing. (2) Fear of Communication Errors:  Students who expressed this fear wrote that they feared not being able to communicate with minority students, or that they would not be able to understand the language of their students. (3) Fear of Students: Students who expressed this fear wrote that they fear their own students will not respect them. (4) Fear of Teaching: Students who expressed this fear wrote that they doubt their ability to manage, teach, or make adequate adjustments for all students, i.e., they feared that they could not differentiate instruction so as to teach every student.

Critical analysis of the dialogic discussions with the pre-service teachers as revealed through analysis of instructor reflections and notes indicated a troubling finding with regard to the dispositions displayed during the discussions. Just as Bolgatz (2005) experienced the ‘dialogic disorder’ in her high school classroom, the two white female instructors in the present study found that the pre-service teachers often resisted the uncomfortable discussions about race.  Many times, controversial debates about racism broke out. Often, discussions about socioeconomic class led to controversial arguments about poverty; and discussions about sexism as well as genderism led to accusatory attacks about White male privilege; while discussions about sexual orientation revealed uncompromising beliefs about sexuality. Perhaps these topics were destined to generate emotional responses in students similar to those described by Tatum (1992) that ranged from “guilt and shame to anger and despair” (p. 1). Often, during the dialogic discussions, resistant attitudes disturbed the peace of an otherwise calm classroom. Many times, pre-service teachers argued that race problems don’t exist any more, insisting that “We settled all of that when schools were integrated in the 60’s.” Sometimes, they asked that the instructors not talk about racism, or homosexuality, or gender issues. Once, a white female student pleaded, “Let’s not fight any race wars today!” meaning let’s not listen and respond to each other anymore because it is too embarrassing, and we can’t talk about race without arguing and being offended. Another day, a black male exclaimed matter of faculty “It doesn’t do any good to talk about racism. They (the white students) always win. Nothing will ever change.”

Dramatic evidence of the emerging teacher dispositions was evidenced through the analysis of preservice teachers’ writings and classroom discussions; and their collaborative work as panelists, written book reviews and team presentations. As the educational psychology course was transformed, the pre-service teachers began to demonstrate substantial changes in their perspectives toward diversity-as-problem in the schools as they listened to each other, as they read, as they wrote, and as they interacted with teachers and students in their assigned high schools. Change was demonstrated through their expressions of compassionate concern for the students they were observing, interacting with, teaching in the high schools. They began to talk about the reciprocal benefits inherent in the caring for, respecting, and valuing of themselves when they found opportunities to demonstrate caring, compassion, respect, and valuing of students.

As the instructors guided the dialogic discussions to present the mistreatment of diversity as problems needing solutions, the pre-service teachers began to argue for solutions to diversity response problems. Through careful presentation of evidence during the semester, they were able to identify diversity issues that they had claimed earlier did not exist in the schools. After a semester of infusion of peace education in the content and learning activities of the educational psychology course, inequities, injustices, and ineffective practices in the schools became much more visible. The concern of the pre-service teachers turned toward getting to know their students before punishing or stereotyping them. They began to think critically about the high school students who were sleeping through classes—(Were they lazy, ill, drugged, afraid, victims of abuse, overly tired, depressed?) As they noticed that many strongly motivated, bright teenagers were trapped in vocational tracks with no chance of going to college, they began to consider multiple causes--(How did that happen? When and why were these students relegated to low achieving tracks? What test score put them there?). As they worried about the defiant, disruptive students whose teachers could not manage or reach, they began to ask for better classroom behavior management and caring strategies for managing behavior problems more effectively. As they began to wonder why students were waiting to drop out of school as soon as they were old enough, they struggled to find ways to combat the learned helplessness of depressed, lethargic adolescents. The pre-service teachers were shocked that many teachers seemed ‘burned-out’—yet were hanging-on until their retirement. The teacher candidates wondered if they would become the same way and expressed their desires to make a difference in the schools as well as the lives of their students. When frightened by the fights that would occasionally break out in the halls, the pre-service teachers wanted to know how to prevent violence in the schools. They were saddened to think of the bleak futures of the young, pregnant girls who were leaving school to take care of a family. Consequently, they wondered why sex education is not really taught in the schools and what could be done to prevent teenage pregnancy in real, effective ways. Keenly aware of disrespectful students who bullied teachers and classmates, the pre-service teachers sought ways to identify bullies and victims and to stop the abuse early. As they became increasingly sympathetic and deeply concerned about the innumerable bored students who were not challenged in their classes, they determined to be the one person in their students’ lives who cared about them and who encouraged them to be the best they could be—to be the teachers who believed in their students.


Implications for Teacher Education

The systematic infusion (and confrontation) of conflicting cultural issues into every course of pre-service teacher curriculum is indeed a challenge for all stakeholders. Nevertheless, such an infusion approach supports the strong efforts to try—to prepare selfless, culturally responsive, and compassionate pre-service teachers for the professional challenges they will face in future classrooms and schools. Such teacher education transformation is not without risk--but it is vital to efforts for consistent and continual teacher education preparation that is relevant to schooling today and the field of peace education.

This study points to the inherent difficulties that teacher educators face in facilitating pre-service teachers’ sensitivity to, and awareness of, other identities while struggling to attain awareness of their own.  Yet the study also supports the notion that the pre-service teachers’ self understanding is the important first step to the goal of selfless, culturally-responsive, compassionate teaching.  Certainly, at the ‘heart level’ (Nagler, 2004, p. 272) there are basic needs and aspirations that all humans share. And we all have the need to be united with each other, that is, we all have the basic, inalienable, universal need for respect; to ‘offer dignity’ (p. 272) to one another. Our schools must nurture our human unity for peace within the myriads of diversity.

Certainly, if teachers are to be the agents of change they are called to be, if they are to become culturally responsive for social justice and equity in the classroom—opening doors for equal access to achievement and personal development for all students, they must know who they are and what are the important teaching roles they may play in the realization of a more just and democratic society. The entire culture and climate of the pre-service curriculum would be guided by a shared vision for selfless, culturally responsive, compassionate teaching which includes altruistic, extra-centered cultural congruity in all teaching and learning endeavors (Gay, 2000; Breault, 1995; Graf, 1992; Ponterotto & Pedersen, 1993; Tatum, 1992; Villegas & Lucas, 2002; Vavrus, 2002).

Although the dialogic discussions in the educational psychology classroom were prone to heated arguments and disruptive behaviors, including offensive comments and occasional low ratings directed toward the educational psychology professor on end-of-course student ratings of instruction, this research evidenced the value of those interactions. The instructors appreciated the privilege of facilitating for prospective teachers a closer look at the underlying socio-emotional, cultural diversity issues affecting the achievement and success of their future students, nation, and world-- the opportunity to foster appreciation of diverse cultures and histories and to affirm the fundamental unity that all humanity shares (Reardon, 1997). The study increased profoundly the awareness of the two instructors of how difficult and tedious, yet critically important it is to prepare future teachers for the diverse and multicultural classrooms that await them. 

This study also offers support for those teacher educators who are willing to rethink to transform the disciplinary content of their fields in order to re-frame their teacher education course goals, objectives, and curriculum for inclusion of philosophies and processes of peace education. Multiple examples in the study illustrate transformative ways to infuse the treatment of diversity, multicultural education, human rights, social justice, and other issues of democratic praxis throughout the disciplinary content of any/all areas of teacher praxis. Importantly, without the caring interventions of selfless, culturally responsive and compassionate teacher educators, too many pre-service teachers despair of teaching students who are different to themselves, give up the dream of making a difference in their students’ lives and abort their teaching careers…leaving their (future) students behind—to fail.

The findings were used to create a teacher disposition self-assessment inventory as well as a key assessment program rubric for evaluating compassionate, culturally responsive teacher dispositions of prospective teachers who will enter the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at the university. (Available on request from the author)



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Recommended Standards for Teacher Educators

Teacher educators use goals of peace development to identify competencies for student dispositions, knowledge and skills to accomplish in students’ courses, relevant field experiences and internships.

  1. Include peace education standards in course syllabi and content to clarify instructional goals.

  2. Provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to identify, then examine, their awareness, views and biases.

  3. Legitimize diverse viewpoints and enable students to express their own to develop their civil courage and public voices.

  4. Build teachers-in-training’s self-respect along with positive regard for diverse others as they develop their peace-building knowledge, skills and dispositions.

  5. Study, model and teach alternative positions before taking a stance on an issue.

  6. Facilitate and use lateral, creative and critical thinking processes.

  7. Teach how to obtain information about, and then analyze, power relations that are evident in local to global interactions, including analysis of international relations as outcomes of economic systems and political domination, such as capitalism and imperialism.

  8. Teach about how social structures and institutions that perpetuate systemic violence and societal conflicts such as poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia.

  9. Make oppression evident to students, and denounce it.

10. Teach about multiple aspects of democratic citizenship including social, environmental, economic and political responsibilities for participation in a democracy.

11. Make clear the distinction between democracy and capitalism.

12. Illustrate how consumption practices and international policies affect human relations and the environment.

13. Develop the capacity to learn about and facilitate pro-active responses to conflicts, including contentious issues.

14. Develop tolerance for uncertainty with open processes, thereby allowing students to explore multiple ways of approaching tasks, including conflict resolution.

15. Encourage students to create social and environmental action projects in response to community, national and global conflicts.

16. Provide examples of and model proactive responses to conflict (e.g. be able to understand/legitimate other points of view with which you don’t agree; decallage, uncertainty.)

17. Emphasize responsibility for peacebuilding and nonviolence in all settings by proactively addressing intrapersonal, interpersonal and systemic problems.

18. Persistently address the unresolved learning issues of teacher candidates, including use of positive conflict-management skills.

19. Recognize and affirm the use of peacebuilding and peacemaking strategies in the classes, field experiences and internships of a teacher-training program.

20. Extend support for teacher development, within and beyond initial credential training, through individual as well as group reflection and research.

21. Document, evaluate and professionally share the successes and challenges of peace-focused teacher education.

22. Revise teacher-training approaches in response to examination of their outcomes.

NOTE: These Peace Education Standards for Teacher Educators were developed in multiple collaborative working sessions of the Peace Education Special Interest Group (SIG) and other interested SIGs of the American Educational Research Association, as well as with the assistance of the Peace Education Commission of the International Peace Research Association and the suggestions of educators who have implemented these standards. Contact Dr. Candice C. Carter in E mail:   for permission to use these standards.


 i :  In this paper, the term, Black, and the term, White, were selected for use to identify persons’  race as it is self-reported on U.S. university admissions applications, referenced in cited articles, and  reported in U.S. Department of Education tables and documents.





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